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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 17:07 GMT
Hidden rage drove father to kill
Philip Austin
Police say the case was emotionally disturbing
A father who killed his wife and two children in a violent rage had a history of anger problems.

Phillip Austin had attended temper control sessions and had marriage counselling with his wife to ease their relationship.

Phillip Austin was always very pleasant whenever I spoke to him

Neighbour June Smith
But the source of his fatal rage - which saw Austin kill his wife Claire, son Kieren, 8, and daughter Jade, 7 - remains a mystery.

Police say the killings were an emotionally disturbing case to work on - not least because officers could not tell whether they were premeditated, or if Austin snapped on the day.

To the outside world, the family seemed as normal as any other.

It was not until Claire's mother, Carol, and stepfather, Harry Quinn, let themselves into the family home on 17 July last year - a week after the killings - that the awful truth about Austin's explosive temper and its appalling aftermath emerged.

'Short temper'

Detective Superintendent Chris Cross, of Northamptonshire Police, who headed the murder investigation, said: "There is no doubt that Claire and Phillip had their share of problems.

"Both confided in friends that they had financial and relationship problems.

"Claire also confided in a number of her close friends that Phillip was short-tempered with the children and would often use physical punishment when they misbehaved, more so in relation to Keiren than Jade."

But Sue Stokes, head of Standens Barn Lower School, said the school never had any concerns about the children.

"They were very good pupils and their parents always attended parents' evenings," she added.

'A normal family'

Phillip and Claire Austin had moved with their children to Stockmead Road in Northampton in 1992. They married in the summer of the following year.

Austin worked on the night shift as a fork lift truck and Claire worked for Northamptonshire County Council as a part-time home help.

Neighbour June Smith, 45, said that shortly before the murders she had thought the couple were happy because they had enjoyed a recent holiday together and were planning to go again.

"Phillip Austin was always very pleasant whenever I spoke to him," she said.

"We heard him shouting at the children a lot but we just put this down to his job working nights and that he was trying to sleep during the day."

Neighbour David Tipping, 45, said: "They seemed to be a quiet, normal family."

Massage parlour

Austin had no previous convictions and there was no evidence he had been suffering from psychological problems, police said.

Although Austin visited a massage parlour on the day of the killings, this seems to have been the only time he ever went to one.

"Whenever he and Claire argued, Austin would spend money on unnecessary items, buying on a whim.

"Once he bought a set of golf clubs - even though he had never played golf and never intended to play golf," Mr Cross said.

"On at least three occasions he left the family home for a number of days following arguments with his wife.

"Neither Phillip or Claire's family were aware of his violence, especially towards the children."

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